During summer, with all that wonderful warmth come the insects: bees, hornets, and wasps in addition to mosquitoes, fleas, and ticks at picnics, camping trips, hikes, and even in our homes. Shooing them away only seems to work for so long before they begin to bite or sting you and your guests.
A person’s response to a bite or sting will depend on his or her sensitivity to the insect’s venom. While most people have only mild reactions, those who are allergic to certain insect venom can have more severe symptoms that require emergency treatment.
You cannot stop all insects from biting or stinging, but you can reduce the number of bites and stings you get by following these tips:
- Avoid using scented soaps, perfumes or hair sprays
- Wear lightweight, light-colored, long-sleeved shirts and pants, and shoes and socks
- Avoid wearing bright colors or flowery print clothing
- Use insect repellents with care
If there is a stinger, try to remove it right away by scraping it with a dull, firm surface, such as a credit card, in the opposite direction the stinger is pointing. Wash the sting / bite site with soap and water. Remove jewelry near the bite / sting site as swelling may occur. Apply a cloth-covered ice pack (no more than 15 minutes every 30 minutes) or a cloth soaked in cold water with the body part above the heart to reduce pain and swelling. If the victim has trouble breathing, call 911 right away. Call the Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222, for any other first aid questions.
Snake and animal bites are also more common during the summer. The Poison Center hotline, 1-800-222-1222, can help you with the first aid steps for these bites as well.
If your insect repellent contains DEET (strengths can range from 5%-100%) choose a product with less than 10% for children. Avoid applying it around eyes and hands. Some repellents are to be used ONLY on clothing, tents, screens and sleeping bags—not directly on the skin. Insect repellents are considered safe when directions are carefully followed.
Call 1-800-222-1222 for questions or if an insect repellent was used incorrectly.
You can also call the poison center if anyone is bitten by an animal, reptile, or human.
Additional information is available on the CDC website.
Want to print a copy of this information? We have Bites & Stings in pdf.